The United States of America ranks number one in the number of prisoners, but only 14th in the world for education. There are three components to this drastic issue that need reformation: it’s estimated that the United States has almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, the United States spends significantly more per year on an inmate than the average college student, and state governments cutting budgets for education to allot for more incarceration funding.
At the beginning of 2012 the US had 2.3 million adults incarcerated. This statistic doesn’t include the 7 million that were in correctional supervision and the 4.8 million adults on parole or probation.
The country ranking second is China, with a little over 1.7 million adults incarcerated. To put things in perspective, China’s total population is right under 1.5 billion people. The incarcerated population of China account for 0.001 percent of the total population, while the incarcerated in the United States account for 0.07 percent of the total population. China’s population is also over four times greater than the United States’ population. In terms of population, the closest country to the United States is Indonesia. The country of Indonesia is right below the United States in the population size rank, yet has one-thirteenth of the amount of prisoners according to worldmeters.info and prisonstudies.org.
Due to the large volume of prisoners, more of the people’s tax dollars are being spent on the incarcerated than on the ones getting an education.
The national average for the cost of an inmate per year is around $50,000. In contrast, the national average for the amount given to an American college student is about $8,000.
Many high school and college students feel that the United States spends too much money on inmates and incarceration. They understand that we need to keep them detained and in secure locations, but they feel that well-educated high school students and college students should receive more than $8,000 on average, since they’re going to be a contributing part of society.
The expenses vary from state to state, but the one thing every state has in common is that more money is spent on an inmate than on a college student.
The state that spends the least on a college student per year is Utah. Each year, Utah will spend approximately $6,000 per college student and will spend about $28,000 on an inmate. The state that spends the most on a college student is New York. The state of New York will spend about $17,000 per year on a college student and will spend an astronomical $59,000 per year on an inmate.
Yes, that’s more than what most teachers, firefighters and some police officers will make in one year’s salary in our current era according to salary.com. Money spent per year isn’t the only way states are putting more into incarceration instead of education. Since 1980, the state of California has built 20 new prisons but has only constructed one new university according to knewton.com.
When every state is compared in this issue, Pennsylvania is one of the worst perpetrators. Between the years of 2000 to 2010, the number of those incarcerated grew 40 percent. As this grew, the Department of Corrections’ budget was increased by 37 percent. The budget rose from $1.17 billion to $1.6 billion.
“Cuts can and must be made in criminal justice programs to meet these budgetary constraints without sacrificing public safety,” Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a report in 2011.
In 2011, Pennsylvania’s government slashed $1 billion dollars from public school funds. One of the biggest issues with education happened in 2013 in the city of Philadelphia. The city contains the largest public school system in the state and had 23 schools closed because of their costs. During the same time, the government found $400 million to build a new prison right outside of the city. The government chose to open a prison over keeping 23 schools open.
It is imperative that our government fixes this problem. Incarcerating our population will not move us forward as human beings. However, educating our youth will take us forward into a positive future. This is not an issue that politicians should be taking lightly.
Sources: thelearningcurve.pearson.com, money.cnn.com, cbsnews.com, collegeboard.org, forbes.com, psea.org, booksthroughbars.org